Lyons O'Neill

Working on brownfield sites

An engineer’s sketching pad may be a blank canvas but the site in question rarely is. Space is one of the most precious resources in urban areas and as populations grow no town or city can afford to have disused space. However, earmarking a plot for a different use and making this change a reality are two different stories. When building on brownfield sites you need a team who can navigate the problems posed by its previous purpose and ensure any new structure does not suffer.

We’ve worked on a number of great projects giving a new lease of life to brownfield sites. From building 31 residential apartments and a new gym on the site of an old snooker hall to constructing a mixed-use development on the historic site of a pub (whose beer cellar, soft ground and the adjoining buildings’ project footings posed some complex engineering questions) being able to transform an area is highly rewarding.

Of course, each project presents a number of unique challenges. Our work at Gransden Avenue saw us assist on a £13 million project in Hackney, London, constructing a new build commercial and residential development. Issues arose from the site being contaminated ground in addition to being surrounded by sensitive structures – including a Grade II listed building. To address these, we implemented an effective risk management process to allow us to identify, accurately assess and minimise any critical risks in the works and ensure the client’s needs were met as well as those of the surrounding buildings.

Another brownfield site transformation saw us bring our expertise to Wanstead High Street to assist with plans for the construction of a new commercial and residential development on the former site of a three-storey building. Our proposed design involves a reinforcement concrete frame which acts as a podium slab for a new three-storey cross-laminated timber structure which will house residential units. As is often the case in urban areas, there are complex boundary considerations for the project, as the long rectangular site is bounded by a pub, restaurant, residential terrace and a car park! These were addressed through the party wall process, to ensure the works could continue without disruption to the site neighbours.

Working on brownfield sites presents a number of challenges – from the geological to the logistical – but thorough site investigations, careful planning and creative thinking means these don’t have to be stumbling blocks to development. A design team with the right expertise and experience can help turn client’s design dreams into reality.